Wait… there’s still a Legalize Marijuana Now party? Why? Didn’t they already win that fight?

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Aug 16, 2023Liked by James J. Heaney

Sort of in some states, but even there, the federal government still calls it illegal, which has substantial implications even though they usually don't enforce it themselves.

(Down with the pernicious doctrine that the Commerce Clause lets the federal government illegalize drugs! If that were so, why would we have needed an Eighteenth Amendment in the first place?)

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There may not be anymore (at least not in MN)! But they were still operational in November 2022, because they hadn't won YET.

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I am reminded why I dropped you before. The sheer incompetence on election integrity is so disappointing.

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I agree that the sheer incompetence on election integrity was *very* disappointing, but I imagine we mean very different things by that!

I kept an open mind from November to December 2020, but I don't think very many people can read the former President's own court filings, plus the filings in opposition, plus the judges' actual rulings, and come away still believing the President's claims. There's a meme that all these cases were dismissed on "standing" grounds, but the meme isn't true; many of the election cases were decided on the merits, and I read enough of them to be convinced.

Nor is it realistic, in my view, to square the President's claims with the supposedly fraudulent results: Trump did *better* in cities than anyone expected He lost the key states largely because he did somewhat *worse* in purple suburbs and bright red exurbs than he did in 2016. If he lost because of fraud, the fraud was largely perpetrated by pro-Trump Republican election officials living in areas Trump won by 25 points (but not the 30 points he needed to win the election). Worse, the pattern is consistent, which means that, if there was a fraud, it was perpetrated not by a handful of officials in a few counties in 6 states but by a coordinated conspiracy of almost all of the tens of thousands of *pro-Trump Republican* election officials throughout the entire country. That is neither plausible nor what the campaign has ever alleged.

Obviously, there was some uncaught fraud in 2020, as there is in every election, and there were a lot of Democrat-appointed judicial activists unlawfully extending mail-in voting by decree. This is all very bad, and must never happen again. But, fortunately for the country, the election was not close enough for this to plausibly have made a difference.

I'm more sympathetic to the idea that the 2020 election was stolen than I am to the idea that, say, institutional racism is the defining fact of all American institution, but both claims are about equally true: they're roughly based on some more-or-less true claims but massively overread those claims to reach profoundly false and socially destructive conclusions.

Anyway, I was sorry to lose you, and I'm sure I've done very little to win you back here! But I've gotta follow where logic leads (or at least so where it seems to me to lead).

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Don't get me wrong, it was a very close election! But it was not Florida 2000, or even the MN 2008 Senate election, where it was SO close that illegal ballots, cast in small enough numbers to escape detection by statistical methods, could have plausibly made the difference.

I based my civil war post (https://decivitate.substack.com/p/and-the-war-came) on an election-fraud scenario, so it's not like I've never considered what it could look like. To make it plausible, you basically need one or at most two states where the decisive margin is well under a tenth of a percent of votes cast -- like in Florida 2000. That's not what we saw in 2020, though. In the closest state, Georgia, Biden won by a super-close-but-nearly-impregnable two-and-a-half tenths, and, in Pennsylvania and Nevada (one of which had to flip to change the outcome), he won by 1.16% and 2.39%, respectively. 1.1% is indeed very close as elections go, but it's not nearly close enough to make fraud a plausible driver of the outcome -- if one in every one or two hundred votes were flipped or stuffed, it would be detected, and wouldn't even be that hard.

Let's take one of the examples you brought up (just one because Brandolini's Law makes it impractical to address all four) and really dig into what it would have had to look like for it to change the outcome: the Wisconsin nursing homes.

First, let's look at the turnout rates. Ms. Cleveland states that there are 92,000 Wisconsin residents in nursing homes; let's accept that. She further claims that some nursing homes reported 100% turnout rates; we'll accept that for the moment. What's the *normal* turnout rate among nursing home residents? Well, in 2016, overall turnout in WI was 67%, and seniors famously vote at much higher rates than normies, nursing home residents even moreso, so let's call it 80%. If EVERY nursing home suddenly jumped from 80% to 100% turnout, that would suggest that 18,400 excess votes had been cast -- not enough to swing the election in Wisconsin, even if every one of those excess ballots had been for Biden.

But, of course, Mr. Gableman doesn't contend that turnout jumped to 100% at EVERY nursing home, just a small subset of them, while others showed unusual rises. That's a serious claim, but that means that, instead of looking at 18,400 excess votes, we're looking at some much smaller number.

Second, you always have to consider the *mix* of illegal ballots. Unless cast by literal mustache-twirling villains in City Hall marking ballots for Biden and stuffing them into boxes, there's *always* a mix, the mix *largely* cancels out, and that makes it surprisingly hard for illegally-cast ballots to change the outcome of an election. For example, let's continue supposing that nursing home staff got their residents to cast 18,400 ballots, and even that some of them cheated and changed votes to Biden, and that the result of this is a batch that favored Biden over Trump by a landslide 80/20 margin. That would only net Biden 11,040 votes, less than half of the needed margin!

And, of course, it's *incredibly* unlikely that the ballots coming out of *Wisconsin nursing homes* were that lopsidedly in favor of Biden, even *if* some residents were manipulated. The populations of nursing homes skew white and old, two of Trump's strongest demos -- strong for him even in Milwaukee and Dane Counties. Maybe a truly evil cabal of nurses could generate a few votes to offset the likely Trump skew of a specific home, but, as we've seen, that couldn't help Biden very much. Besides, we're talking about thousands of nursing home staff across hundreds of facilities who *themselves* have mixed political affiliations between them; any far-flung and organized conspiracy would be caught -- nor does Mr. Gableman, in his report, even *allege* such a far-flung and well-organized conspiracy, or even any intentional fraud whatsoever.

The claim he makes seems to be that nursing home staff in some counties manipulated the small fraction of mentally-incompetent nursing home residents into casting ballots for a particular candidate. Even if that were true, and even if all such "excess" ballots were improbably cost for Biden, there aren't enough such residents to swing the election. You can run the numbers yourself, if you like.

Thus far, we've taken Mr. Gableman's claims at face value, but, even in that positive light, they fall very far short of good evidence that the Wisconsin election outcome was changed by illegal ballots.

Then, when you dig further into it, and start trying to see whether Mr. Gableman's claims were actually true, you find that Mr. Gableman's allegations of high turnout appear to be based on a snapshot of the voter database in August 2021 -- which is a big problem for the turnout math, because people in nursing homes have a bad habit of dying at much higher rates than the general population. Many of the people who were legitimately registered to vote and cast ballots in November 2020 were no longer living in August 2021 and no longer appeared in that database snapshot. (Claire Woodall-Vogg said that, as of July 2022, about a third of registered voters from November 2020 in nursing homes had gone inactive -- that is, died. Maybe she's lying, since she is a Democrat, but that seems pretty plausible to me, and it explains how Mr. Gableman mistakenly (not maliciously) got such different answers from everyone else. (I favor this explanation because of Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice what can as easily be explained by stupidity.)

Because of this, it seems to me likely (although not certain, because I haven't personally checked the data) that Gableman was dividing a numerator of "ballots cast in November 2020 from nursing homes" against a smaller denominator of "voters registered at nursing homes in November 2020 who were still alive in August 2021." When the Wisconsin Journal re-ran Gableman's numbers for Dane County, it found a very ordinary spread of high-turnout and low-turnout nursing homes. Milwaukee found similar, and provided its data to FactCheck.org, which is an imperfect service but not an outright fraudulent one.

All this makes it seem unlikely that there were "excess ballots" cast to *any* degree in Wisconsin nursing homes in 2020.

As for whether ALL votes cast from nursing homes in 2020 in Wisconsin were illegal (because the WEC suspended SVDs and all the rest) is a rather closer question than Mr. Gableman gives them credit for. I'm not familiar with all the ins and outs of Wisconsin election law, so I don't want to commit myself to a position. Some covid-19 changes to election law were legally justified and others were not. However, let's assume that all 92,000 votes cast from nursing homes in Wisconsin 2020 were indeed illegal.

Do you REALLY think that excluding 92,000 votes from nursing homes across every county of Wisconsin is going to *help* Trump, on net -- much less deliver him the 20,000 vote margin he would have needed to win there? I don't see how that can be believed.

And even if you manage to convince yourself of *that,* Biden won by a sufficiently decisive margin in enough states that this doesn't change the outcome unless you convince yourself of outcome-changing irregularities in at least two other states.


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This, finally, brings me back to the point I made in the article: I think that belief that election fraud changed the outcome of the 2020 election is based largely on the fact that people who believe it *do not seek out contrary evidence*. When I started typing this, I read the Federalist article, then I sought out other sources to either confirm The Federalist's findings or offer objections to them. I quickly found several objections (linked below). I read them. Many "debunkings" are nonsense, because the "fact-check" industry is full of scams and hacks, but, in this case, I found these more credible than the claims of the special counsel. I remain open to further evidence on this topic.

Your comment, by contrast, seems totally unaware that there even *is* another side to this story. I ask you sincerely: were you aware of these attempts to refute the Wisconsin Special Counsel's claims? If so, what did you make of them, and why did you omit them from your comment? If not, then why would you accept a very serious, highly contested allegation about election fraud without at least checking to see what the other side had said about it first?

(Usually, when I talk to someone who shares your beliefs about the 2020 election, this is the point where he pivots away from the claim he originally made. Instead of trying to defend the implausible claim about Wisconsin nursing homes any further, he might raise a new point about, to use a real example from my email inbox, website errors on DecisionDeskHQ on election night 2020. But this always comes back to the same problem: the guy *wants* the 2020 election to have been stolen so much that he never even glances at the evidence that maybe it wasn't, just moves on to the next talking point, and Brandolini's Law makes it impossible to keep up.)

I've gone through this dance with enough claims about the 2020 election that my prior is now set to very high skepticism about similar claims. The more they've been litigated in actual courtrooms, the less likely they are to be credible at the end of the debate. My thinking is that, if there *were* really good claims that the 2020 election was stolen, supporters of that thesis would probably lead with them, wouldn't they?

Here is some other discussion of this Wisconsin-nursing-homes claim:




Cheers, as always.

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(Usually, when I talk to someone who shares your beliefs about the 2020 election, this is the point where he pivots away from the claim he originally made.)

My claim is that there were a number of suspicious events occurred during the 2020 election, where in certain safeguards for election integrity were explicitly dismantled, and that the election was far closer than you portrayed it as.

To say that my claim rests on the nursing home incident is a blatant misrepresentation of my position. And, to reverse your own accusation, you've apparently ignored any new evidence emerging about election fraud since you've already come to your decision on it.

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> My claim is that there were a number of suspicious events occurred during the 2020 election, where in certain safeguards for election integrity were explicitly dismantled

I agree with this claim.

A number of suspicious events occur at every election, and always have. Nearly all of them turn out to be non-suspicious upon further investigation. A few turn out to be instances of fraud. It is likely that there are at least some undetected instances of fraud at every election as well. (Fewer today, with more partisan election observer laws and voter ID in many states as compared to, say, 1992.) The 2020 election was not very unusual in this respect. It reminded me especially of the aftermath of the 2004 election, in which Democrats identified many suspicious events in decisive Ohio. Perhaps fortunately for America, we didn't have social media yet.

For their part, election-integrity laws that were greatly strengthened during the 2010s were in many cases weakened, often by activist judges, perhaps even to the point (in some states) of cancelling out the reforms and returning elections to the level of security they had in the mid-2000s.

If that's all you're claiming, then we don't disagree.

However, I took you to be claiming, additionally, that these suspicious events were plausibly caused by mass intentional voter fraud of sufficient scope and magnitude that the President Trump would have actually won re-election if all fraudulent ballots had been excluded.

I think *that* is clearly false. It is not plausible that the various suspicious events were of sufficient scope and magnitude to change the final outcome. President Trump lost in too many places by too-consistent margins for that to be the case. The election was close, but not close enough to justify this belief, certainly not on the thin-to-non-existent evidence of organized mass fraud that actually surfaced in court. As a result, President Trump's attempt to wrest the electoral college away from legitimate winner Joe Biden is properly labeled "attempted election theft," which is the phrase I used in the article that apparently raised your hackles.

However, if I misunderstood you, and you actually weren't suggesting any of that, then we're in full agreement and I'm not sure what we're arguing about!

The Democrats will tell you that 2020 was the least-fraudulent, highest-integrity election in history. It wasn't. All things considered, it was probably the worst-run, lowest-integrity election in over a decade, maybe going back to the implementation of the Help America Vote Act in the late oughts. But Biden won by enough votes, in enough places, by consistent enough margins that we can be confident that he is the legitimate president of the United States.

> To say that my claim rests on the nursing home incident is a blatant misrepresentation of my position.

I didn't say that it did. I was attempting to show, through the nursing home example, how thorough investigation into apparently suspicious events nearly always has a reasonable and entirely innocent explanation. There is no need to trust some authority that there's an innocent explanation. It's the 21st-century: you can generally find the innocent explanation yourself with a little determined googling.

I was also attempting to show that doing this determined googling is a *necessary prerequisite* to drawing the conclusion that the entire U.S. justice system in a wide range of battleground states completely failed and allowed an illegitimately-elected president into office.

Finally, I was attempting to illustrate Brandolini's Law: the amount of energy needed to investigate and refute unfounded claims is an order of magnitude bigger than the energy needed to *produce* unfounded claims. Both sides' ecosystems excel at making unfounded claims, spreading them, and then insisting (when scrutinized) that they're "just asking questions." This allows each camp to convince their voters of a lot of things that simply aren't true. For example, many Democrats believe to this day that mask mandates are effective at slowing the spread of covid and that red-state covid policies killed large numbers of people. This is total nonsense, but it's been suggested strongly enough that they widely believe it anyway. Voters should not fall for it -- not even when their own side does the same thing.

> And, to reverse your own accusation, you've apparently ignored any new evidence emerging about election fraud since you've already come to your decision on it.

No, it's just that, after many hours on many nights sifting through what turned out to be consistent nonsense, I just stopped looking into every unfounded claim from people I have already demonstrated are unfounded-claim-makers. If someone trustworthy shows up with credible evidence of outcome-changing fraud in the 2020 election, and has done the work of explaining both how the math adds up to a changed outcome and why innocent explanations don't suffice, I'll give that person a fair hearing. But it's like with any fringe theory, from school-shooting-victims-are-just-crisis-actors to the-earth-is-flat -- debunk one piece of b.s., the purveyors just generate two more. You have to draw the line somewhere, because some members of the discussion are not participating in good faith.

(I will admit that "the 2020 election was stolen" is a LOT more plausible than the flat earth theory.)

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Aug 20, 2023·edited Aug 20, 2023Liked by James J. Heaney

“I also find it interesting (but, again, sample size insufficient) to note that the three Republicans who ran for U.S. Senate as pro-choicers (Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Tiffany Smiley of Washington, and Joe O’Dea of Colorado) performed substantially worse than their peers, even their Trump-aligned peers."

Can you clarify why you feel Lisa Murkowski performed substantially worse than her peers? You went into no detail about it, only discussing Joe O'Dea. Alaska's ranked choice voting system makes it harder to compare its election results to those of other states--but Murkowski in the general election did defeat the Trump-aligned, pro-life Kelly Tshibaka.

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Yes, she did. And this will be debatable in part because everything in Alaska is debatable, because their election system is different. (No judgment implied -- that's another post -- but it's not easily comparable to every other state election system.) Murk is clearly a talented politician, having fended off primary challenges, primary *defeats*, and general election challengers in every election (under every Alaskan electoral system) going back to the Tea Party.

My measurement for over/underperformance was to take the margin by which the Republican beat the Democrat in the final vote total and compare it to the statewide PVI. In Alaska's case, I treated the first rounds of IRV as a jungle primary, and the final round as the measurable outcome. I took the state's Cook PVI (R+8) and subtracted Sen. Murkowski's margin against her Democratic opponent (R+7.37%) = -0.6%, a slight underperformance.

I then compared this over/underperformance to other *incumbent* Republicans. The average GOP incumbent overperformed by 10.6%. When we look at only competitive states (Cook PVI D+10 to R+10), the average GOP incumbent overperformed by 8%. (There's that red wave we were talking about once upon a time). Both Rubio (FL) and Grassley (IA) came from more competitive but outperformed this margin. Therefore, Murkowski underperformed her pro-life peers -- other GOP Senate incumbents in competitive states -- pretty substantially.

Or, at least, that was my thinking when I wrote the post!

While double-checking all this for this comment, I've noticed a critical error: I thought Tshibaka was eliminated in round 2 and that the final round was between Murkowsk and the Democrat, Chesbro. As I'm sure you know, it was just the opposite: Chesbro was knocked out in Round 2 and the final round of voting was between two Republicans. According to my method, I should have coded this an uncontested race and excluded it from my Senate analysis entirely, drawing no conclusions about Murkowski.

If I realllllly wanted to include Alaska in my analysis, I'm not sure how I would do it. Maybe we should count Murkowski as winning Round 1 by 33% (the margin by which she beat Chesbro)? But then how do we factor in Tshibaka, the pro-lifer, who beat Chesbro by 32%? Putting these huge margins in the sheet would certainly throw off the averages, so should I take the median? Instead, do I code Murkowski as the *Democratic* candidate in the final round? If so, that would be a huge *over*performance for her in this red state... and yet that doesn't seem right, either. She wasn't a Democrat, but a moderate Republican.

Here is what I think we can say for sure: Murkowski is a very able politician who parlayed the intense hostility of much of her own base into victory by combining Democratic support with the Republican incumbency advantage. However, even with the help of IRV to push voters into her column, she could not command the soaring statewide mandate of other (pro-life) GOP competitive-state incumbents like Rubio. Grassley, Tim Scott (SC, overperformed by 16%) and Jerry Moran (KS, overperformed by 13%). if I were running for Senate, would rather be Murkowski than any of her challengers, but I'd still rather be any of the other GOP incumbents (except Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who underperformed both Murkowksi and every other GOP competitive-state incumbent.) However, I no longer know how to *quantify *her position relative to the others, which is bad news for this quantitative post!

(Also, Idaho's Mike Crapo totally bombed, but it's a safe seat, so he survived.)

In any event, I'm going to have to correct the post now. Thank you for making me look into this.

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Aug 22, 2023Liked by James J. Heaney

I did do some thinking about trying to compare the Alaska election to other ones by hypothesizing of how things were done if it was a typical election, but it's tricky. It's true that if we go the usual way elections are done (party primary then general election) and Murkowski won the primary, then she obviously would have crushed the Democrat; in this alternate timeline, the people who voted for Tshibaka would have certainly favored Murkowski over the Democrat. Some undobutedly wouldn't have voted at all, but the worst case scenario for Murkowski would be all of Tshibaka's voters sit out, which would hand Murkowski a crushing victory. However, if this were done under normal rules, then you would've undoubtedly had a bunch of third party people running like was the case for Murkowski in 2016. And all of this assumes Murkowski would have won her primary--she could have lost and run as an Independent (she did it in 2010 and won), and who knows what happens then?

However, there is a possible comparison point, which is the OTHER statewide elections in Alaska that happened that year. They had the ranked choice voting. The Governor one is tricky to compare; we had one Republican, one Democrat, and one Independent (technically we had two Republicans, but the second one withdrew, but withdrew too late to prevent their name from being on the ballot, and got only 5% in the first round).

But the House of Representatives election had a very similar lineup with one Democrat and two Republicans (there was a Libertarian, but he got only 1.73% of the initial vote and we can essentially ignore him for the purpose of this). In this case, both of the Republicans were pro-life.

This one went dramatically different, though. In the Senate election, Murkowski and Tshibaka got more than 40% in the initial round each, while the Democrat got a paltry 10%. In the House of Representatives election, the Democrat (Mary Peltola, the incumbent) got a whopping 48.8% of the vote in the first round, while the two Republicans got 25.7% (Sarah Palin) and 23.3% (Nick Begich). After Begich was eliminated, not enough of his votes went to Palin to let her reach 50% (the final result between the two finalists was 55% Peltola and 45% Palin).

Now, there is a certain incumbent advantage--Peltola won her seat in a special election held several months prior. Actually, it was a special election that had the same basic lineup, actually (Peltola, Palin, Begich). Peltola did much better in the regular election than the special election (she got 40% in the first round of the special election, but 48% in the first round of the regular election), showing incumbent advantage. The difficulty is that even if we disregard that and look at the older special election, we still have the Democrat snatch 40% of the first round vote while up against two Republicans, in contrast to the Senate election where the Democrat got only 10% of the vote while up against two Republicans.

Can this be ascribed to both Republicans being pro-life, whereas Murkowski wasn't? I'm not so sure about that, because in the Senate race, we saw Tshibaka do pretty well, better than either Palin or Begich.

It's an almost bizarrely different result despite the fact that we had the same party lineup (two Republicans, one Democrat) in each election and the same electorate. Being far from an expert on the candidates and elections that happened in Alaska, I'm going to guess a lot of it might have just been candidate quality--I don't know the specifics of a bunch of these candidates, but I do note that the Democrat in the Senate election (Pat Chesbro) is listed as only being a "teacher" while the Democrat in the House election (Mary Peltola) had served in the Alaska house in the past.

Still, if there's anything to compare the Alaska Senate election to, it would be their House election due to it being the same electorate, same year, and same party lineup, with the Governor election being another possibility despite diverging a bit more in regards to the parties involved. I am rather curious as to what the reason for the dramatically different results in the House and Senate races. Is it really just mostly candidate quality? Or were there other factors involved I'm not aware of because I don't live in Alaska?

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I agree with all of this!

The problem with answering these questions is that, with a sample size of 1 and all these variables flying around, I think any answer we come up with can be dismissed by a skeptic as "speculative" and replaced by different speculation. So I just can't say whether or not Murk over- or under-performed pro-life peers on election night.

She did well, though, and I'm still thinking through whether I should speculate anyway!

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